Farm Workers Paid Better

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Farm workers on commercial farms get competitive wages, which are far better than in sectors with minimum wage agreements. The average cash wage per hour for permanent workers, according to the Namibia Agricultural Employers’ Association Wage Survey released yesterday, is N$3.53, which translates into N$657 per month. The gazetted minimum wage for employees in the agriculture sector is N$429 per month. In addition to the cash wages, farm workers also get farm-produced food such as milk and meat – rations bought from shops and given to the employee by an employer – and they are able to keep livestock and cultivate land. Khomas region has the highest amount paid in the form of cash wages to its workers at N$744 per month, followed by Karas Region where employers give their workers a monthly cash wage of N$734. AEA Chairperson, Hellmut FÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶rtsch, said yesterday that Khomas paid higher wages because farmers have to be competitive. Since 1996 when the first wage survey was conducted, the hourly wages have gone up from N$1.06 to N$3.53 in 2006. In terms of percentages, the cash wages account for 39 percent, housing 28 percent, food rations 16 percent and free transport and keeping livestock eight and four percent respectively. The total remuneration amount is N$1 686 compared to N$1 453 in 2004. FÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶rtsch said 99 percent of communal farmers pay their workers more than the minimum wage required by law, with one percent paying below the gazetted wage. He suspected that the employees getting less than N$429 could be pensioners who get less benefits. The wage survey indicates that the average value of support given to pensioners by farmers was N$333 per month, which ranges from cash allowances to wet and dry rations and keeping livestock. The survey is conducted every two years to investigate and analyse the different components of the remuneration packages and management of farm workers in the commercial agricultural sector. It aims at providing sound and reliable statistical information regarding labour in the sector to be used by decision-makers and individual employers. Data collected from the survey indicates that large stock, guest and hunting farms employ the highest number of employees with the Omaheke Region, which has 533 employees in total accounting for the majority of the employees. Statistics in the survey also indicate that the numbers of permanent workers have picked up again after taking a dip in 2004 to 4.05 from 5.70 in 2000. This year, the average number of employees per employer is 5.24 workers. The survey said the increase of 23.4 percent in the number of permanent employees per employer could be ascribed to the fact that the impact of the minimum wage is over, and also to increased political stability and the excellent year that the small stock industry experienced. Since the last survey in 2004, female employees have also increased. A total of 486 farm workers were dismissed between 2004 and 2006, which represents 21 percent of the employees compared to 23 percent during the last survey. The majority of the workers (169) resigned, 105 were absent without leave, 63 were dismissed, 83 had their services terminated for other reasons while 17 percent of them have unknown reasons. While some retired, others were retrenched, and yet others were declared medically unfit to work. Alcohol abuse accounts for the biggest percentage of workers that were dismissed on commercial farms. Data in the survey indicates that the incidence of alcohol abuse rose from 34.8 in 2004 to 40.3 in 2006. Other reasons for dismissals were theft, dishonesty and lack of productivity. The survey also documents the trend in service since 1996, sick leave, and distribution of cash basic wages, salary increases, HIV/AIDS occurrence and pensioners.